US says Horn of Africa envoy stepping down 'in coming days'

FILE - Then U.N. Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Jeffrey Feltman, center, walks upon arrival at the Pyongyang International Airport in Pyongyang, North Korea on Dec. 5, 2017. The U.S. State Department said in a statement Thursday, Jan. 6, 2022 that its special envoy to the Horn of Africa, Jeffrey Feltman, will end his appointment "in the coming days" after a year marked by deadly crises in Ethiopia and Sudan. (AP Photo/Jon Chol Jin, File) (Jon Chol Jin, Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

NAIROBI – The U.S. State Department said Thursday its special envoy to the Horn of Africa will end his appointment “in the coming days” after a year marked by deadly crises in Ethiopia and Sudan.

Envoy Jeffrey Feltman plans to step down shortly after his current visit to Ethiopia, where more than a year of war in the country’s Tigray region has killed an estimated tens of thousands of people.

Ambassador David Satterfield, a veteran diplomat who most recently served as U.S. ambassador to Turkey, will succeed Feltman, a statement from Secretary of State Antony Blinken said.

Feltman met Thursday evening with Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed for “constructive, substantive discussions,” and the envoy formally told Abiy he was leaving his post, State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters.

“Any positive momentum from his discussion can be quickly realized,” Price said, adding that Feltman raised issues including an end to fighting and atrocities, humanitarian access and a negotiated end to the war.

There was no immediate statement from Ethiopia on the meeting.

Leaders in both Ethiopia and Sudan have frustrated Feltman, a longtime career U.S. diplomat who retired in 2012 and joined the United Nations as undersecretary for political affairs, in his current envoy role.

Ethiopian authorities repeatedly assured him and others they would seek a peaceful resolution to the country’s crisis even as conditions deteriorated.

And on the eve of last year’s coup in Sudan, military officials told Feltman during meetings in Khartoum that they did not plan to remove the prime minister by force. Three hours after leaving Sudan, Feltman learned of the coup.

Blinken said the Horn of Africa’s challenges “demand sustained focus by the United States.” He said Feltman would continue to serve the State Department as an adviser.

The news came the same day China's foreign minister announced that his country would appoint a special envoy to the Horn of Africa.

While there was no immediate statement by Ethiopia’s foreign ministry or prime minister’s office on Feltman’s departure, Ethiopia’s embassy to neighboring Djibouti tweeted that “it would be an excellent opportunity for the United States to ameliorate its misguided foreign policy in the Horn of Africa.”

And the editor of the independent Addis Standard media outlet, Tsedale Lemma, tweeted, in response to Blinken’s statement, that Feltman’s efforts fell short “due mainly to lack of direct engagement by your office from matters in the Horn.”